Archive for December, 2008

Quote of the Day

December 24, 2008

“I’ve shown flashes of consistency.” — Aaron Rodgers



A Couple Quick Thoughts

December 23, 2008

I won’t add much to what Andy’s written below for two reasons.  First, this game is a microcosm of the Packers’ season.  Virtually everything we’ve written after each of the many disappointing losses can be said here.  Second, and this is rare, I agree with almost everything he’s written.

* On Aaron Rodgers: I think he’s had an incredible season.  He is the 8th rated passer in the NFL.  And he has done that with an offensive line that ranks, according to various rankings I’ve seen, in the bottom 10 in the league.  Brett Favre, with a superior offensive line and a sometimes-dominant running game, is 18th.   (That said, aside from Dustin Keller, Favre’s options in the passing game are weak compared to Rodgers.’)  His big problem — and it is a big problem — is that he hasn’t learned how to win.  And, at least at this point in his career, that’s the big difference between Rodgers and Favre.  (Having said that, in at least two of the games we’ve lost, Rodgers has put the team in position to win.)  If he can stay healthy, still a big “if” in my view, and with the receiving weapons the Packers have assembled, he will easily remain a Top 10 quarterback for several years.

* On the running game: Ryan Grant was not as good this year as he was last year.  No question.  But a few things to remember as some Packers fans/analysts throw him under the proverbial bus.  Going into the final week of the season (and a game against Detroit in which he stands to do pretty well), he ranks ninth in the NFL with 1097 yards rushing this year.  The more telling statistic, however, is his yards/carry average, which is down to 3.7 from 5.1 last year.  (That number, while low, still puts Grant in front of Ladanian Tomlinson, Marion Barber, Willie Parker, and Joseph Addai – among others.)  I attribute that primarily to two things: 1) his holdout affected his conditioning and his health and the hamstring injury was a bigger factor than we were initially told, and, 2) the offensive line played far worse this year than it did last year.

*On being 5-10.  Judging strictly by their record, the Packers are worse than the San Francisco 49ers (6-9), as bad as the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-10) and almost as bad as the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and…wait for it…Oakland Raiders (all 4-11).  The good news is that the Packers aren’t nearly as bad as these teams and, their woeful record notwithstanding, are probably one of the Top 15 teams in the league right now.  That’s not to say they don’t have work to do in the off-season — they do.  But the Packers have some top talent at key positions — Woodson, Collins, Kampman, Rodgers, Grant, Driver, Jennings, Jones — and much of that top talent is young.  The problem is that so little of that top talent can be found on the offensive and defensive lines — positions that win championships.

But 5-10.  That hurts.

Assigning fault for the running game

December 23, 2008
  • Aaron Rodgers’ obvious hand-off style – 7%.
  • The offensive line – 53%.
  • Ryan Grant not hitting the holes (or like last night, just running straight into defenders instead of around them) – 22%
  • The fullbacks, players who seem to have been immune to criticism somehow – 18%

(Officially and scientifically calculated percentages…) We’ve talked plenty here re O-Line problems and Grant not getting it done. But last night it seemed extra evident to me that FB John Kuhn wasn’t getting the job done either. I know it’s hard to account for players like LB Briggs, but on 2 obvious occasions, Kuhn couldn’t even get a chip block on him and both times, grant lost 2 or more yards. And there were several other plays where Kuhn seemed to arrive at the point of attack too late. Right now, no player acting as a FB on our roster was a FB in college. Maybe that’s the problem. Kuhn was a halfback and Hall was a linebacker. Also, our TE-acting-as-FB-experiment seems to be an ill-conceived one as we’re essentially asking our TEs to play another position. While conceptually it may not be a stretch to ask a TE to block because they do that anyway, it is quite a different thing to block in the backfield vs the line of scrimmage. Picking up a quality veteran FB may need to be an off-season task. (Though kind of like the offensive line, what seems weird about this year is that last year, FB deficiencies did not seem to be as apparent, if at all. Maybe Hall is good and Kuhn’s not…not sure).

(Side Note: One thing I found interesting from earlier in the year was some article I read about Tomlinson in San Diego openly criticizing the SD front office for getting rid of FB Lorenzo Neal in the off-season. Tomlinson said at one point he believes that move has cost the team hundreds of rushing yards this year.)

Heartened by Packergeek readers

December 23, 2008

Despite the horrendousness, as it were, of last night’s loss, I am heartened by one thing: our readers. We have witty, astute and football-wise readers who comment here. As I was composing the previous novel/post on my Bears Game Thought, I kept reading reader comments from last night and the dead-onness, if you will and hilarity helped me get through writing such a critical/depressing post.

Bears Game – Thoughts

December 23, 2008
  • Just once, I would like to see MM gather his special teamers or his defense before a critical play in the game and give them a talk or at the very least, remind them of the importance of what’s going on. Maybe he did that – I don’t know I wasn’t at the game – but I doubt it because I haven’t seen him address the defense as a whole or the offense as a whole or ST as a whole. He’s the coach – he needs to step in sometimes and help re-focus his players – especially the special teamers who by the end of the game, had clearly lost focus. Other coaches would have done that. Some might say that’s not MM’s style, but you know what…then he needs to adopt that style. As a coach you need to be very involved IN THE MOMENT. I have a post coming on this very topic. I don’t question MM’s dedication to the team etc or his will to win. He is a likable guy whom I know doesn’t sleep after losses like this. He cares, I know he does. But what I do question this year is his ability to be IN THE MOMENT with the team. His critical decision-making and sense for the game is not like it was last year – when I thought it was quite good. By the way, I have always questioned Lovie Smith’s ability to be IN THE MOMENT. That guy seems to have no clue and he never says anything to anyone on his headset. Sorry, but sometimes he looks high or something.
  • This is the 3rd or 4th game I remember seeing Mason Crosby kick that go nowhere kick. You know what I mean. The 38 yarder to win the game was low and plenty bad, yes. But his first miss was even worse – and we’ve seen him do that several times now in bad weather. Kicking a field goal in weather like that does take extra concentration and kicking field goals is not an easy thing to do in the first place. But for professional kickers who do it every day – kicking a 38 yarder when there is no precipitation or major wind, shouldn’t be that difficult even if it’s 0 degrees. Mason Crosby owns a lot of this loss because the team actually put him in a great position to win the game. I suppose the ST’s O-Line also owns some of it for allowing Alex Brown penetration – though the kick still should have been higher than it was at that point in trajectory.
  • When the Packers had the ball at the Bears’ 3 yard-line and we called 3 pass plays, I really wondered. Grant had begun to create some running room for himself just prior to that and the Bears D seemed to be a bit tired. Now, I can’t fault MM necessarily for calling 2 of the pass plays because we’d lost 5 yards on the first pass play. But my point is that down by the goal line, he seems to get it in his head that we either need to pass all 3 downs or run all 3 downs. Of course, neither answer is correct – a good play mix is what is needed.
  • I disagreed with the announcers when they kept saying “Rodgers and the offense are fine”, it’s just defense and special teams. While I agreed that over the season we’ve had an unreliable D and ST, I don’t think our offense is fine. I would love to see a stat on how many run plays we ran that gained us 2 yards or less. I would bet nearly 75% of our plays had that result. What I really don’t like is that we have “obvious run plays”. Sort of like Sherman’s U-71 package with Kevin Barry – everyone knew it was coming…of course the difference is that back then we had such a good o-line we’d still get yards on it. We start with the obvious run offensive set: there is always a FB, maybe a TE shifting around seemingly cluelessly in the backfield (last night anyway), 1 or 2 WRs and Grant. I think MM might say when he calls in the play. “Ok Aaron, we’re going to run an “obvious run play” to Clifton’s side”. I think what happens is that the defense simply sees the grouping on the field for the Pack, stacks the box, sees the line go one way, sees Rodgers hand-off obviously in one direction – all leading to another no-gainer. I can hear those who don’t like people criticizing play-calling saying: what would you propose? How about giving the ball to Grant on less obvious run plays – LIKE THE FREAKIN’ SCREEN PLAY FOR THE TD!!! I just don’t understand why they didn’t try a few more screens last night. Or calling running plays with a 3-4 WR set. The one screen they did run worked beautifully in part because they had either a 3 or 4 WR set (not sure), and it looked very much like the Pack was calling their “obvious pass play”. We fooled them badly – that was a great play call by MM. Or how about misdirection plays where everyone goes one way and Rodgers runs a naked bootleg keeper himself the other – or throws a screen to Grant running the opposite way of the blocking or just having Grant run opposite the blocking direction. Last year I thought MM was really good at that – at crossing defenses and making them have to guess re what’s coming next. This year, it seems so predictable. So in long, the offense too owns some of the responsibility for all of this.
  • When I really got to thinking about the above point, it made me realize one thing: Aaron Rodgers has had a hell of season. Not just a good season/good for him kind of thing. He’s had a hell of a season. To operate as he has in what has been a fairly predictable offense with a weakish run game and a shoddy O-Line, is a credit to his accuracy and his quick thinking that leads him to take whatever he’s given by the defense. The only thing I’d have him work on is the hand-off. Just making a bit more subtle and less obvious – again, of all people to consider for an example, Seneca Wallace is quite good at disguising the direction of the play because of his hand-off style.
  • Did anyone hear Poppinga’s name all night? Why is he on the field? I’ll tell you why. He is very popular in the locker room and in Green Bay. He’s funny, very bright and people really like the guy. I even like the guy. But that won’t interfere with my ability to see that he does nothing. It’s really weird that nobody in the organization has the sense to fairly rate him on his play and not on whether they like him or not. He is so absent on the field it is absolutely unreal. Bishop was on the field for some ST plays and in his 45 seconds of total play, he managed to make a phenomenal tackle on Hester – preventing a big gainer (while being held by someone no less). There is a stubbornness among coaches/staff that is really starting to concern me and remind me of Mike Sherman.
  • Hawk is really…slow.
  • Chillar may not be too bad. He made a few mistakes last night, but I am getting more of the sense that if he were playing next to competent LBs, he might be pretty good.
  • Our defense last night did play with some abandon. The D-Line woke up (and again switching Kampman around made a big difference). Montgomery, Pickett, Jolly, Kampman – all of those guys played quite well. Our secondary was mostly solid (though we probably could have had 3-4 more picks) and the LB play while weak, wasn’t killing us.
  • One interesting thing about Aaron Rouse is that coming into the NFL, the knock on him was that he tended to be inconsistent w/re to being the physical presence many think he should be (at 6’4″ and a good number of pounds). Last night, he looked physical and played pretty well – but he’s had other games this year where he’s been tentative and and not as involved as I think he should have been. Maybe with time, he can perform more like he did last night (outside of the boneheaded ST play he made that essentially gift-wrapped the game for the Bears).
  • We should have won that game. We totally outplayed the Bears and it didn’t help that they were gifted that TD by being arbitrarily given that first down (and we didn’t challenge it of course either). The Bears last night proved to me to be a really bad team. How the Bears are 9-6 I’ll never understand – they looked more like a 4-11 team than a 9-6 team.

nice kick – maybe Crosby is the no-clutch guy…

December 23, 2008

Sorry – Crosby’s kick was low. That wasn’t a “great push” as the announcers contended. That was his second low kick. That one is on Crosby.

For the record, Rodgers did his part to make that a game-winning drive.

Nice throw/catch to Jones

December 23, 2008

We missed James Jones when he was out. He has great hands. That’s what we needed from Rodgers right there. Nicely done Aaron.

where are the screens?

December 23, 2008

That 2nd down play would have been perfect for a screen.

It’s Rodgers’ time now…

December 23, 2008

It would be great if he could do it in a game like this. Come on Rodgers. The Packers can’t forget about Grant on this drive either. Screens and a couple sneaky run calls should be in order as the Bears will likely be thinking pass.

Bad spot – they didn’t deserve that TD

December 23, 2008

Pickett stopped Forte short – that was a homer, arbitrary spot.